tv Q A CSPAN July 14, 2013 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
and then british prime minister david cameron in his weekly question time. later, a discussion on senate rules >> this week i q&a, and journalist, playwright, and author, george packer, discusses his latest book called "the go -- the unwinding to go -- the unwinding." purpose of the flight that we see? of a mans a photograph that we saw in rural virginia. the flag was starting to rust.
i thought it was a striking image and asked if i could take a picture. it is a piece of folk art. the book comes out of the heartland will stop that comes out of the experience of normal americans in rural virginia will stop the flag is in battered shape. it is still the flag. i thought it was the perfect image for "the unwinding." >> when did you decide on the title? >> i was visiting the home of r.j. reynolds, speaking of rural the main with one of characters of the book. we're looking at the fallow farmland of that part of the formerlyhat was tobacco lands. he was imagining a future in which the fallow land was rejuvenated for the purpose of ,aking alternative energy
alternative fuels, out of control and so i will stop and soy. each talent in each homestead would make its own food and andgy -- each town homestead would make its own food and energy. .hat stuck with me dean price is an eloquent voice. it said something about the present and the future. thatsonated with my sense things that used to hold america together -- structures, institutions, social ties -- have prayed and become undone. that is what that phrase, the unwinding, seemed like a new want and -- a nuanced phrase.
this is not a policy book. this does not tell you the 10 things wrong with america and how to fix them. this is a novel. i need a title with poetry. >> do your member the day or moment that you got the idea to do this kind of a book but to mark >> -- book? i was working at the new yorker with my friend dexter filkins. we were looking at contractors sauntering out of a café after eating cheeseburgers. , we are not know that good anymore. it struck me with full force. i knew what he meant. i did not know how or why it had happened. raq?couldn't we rebuild i
at home, when i got back from the war and cover the elections, every domestic institution -- from commercial banks, to investment banks, to auto manufacturers -- seemed to be in a state of collapse. there is a big story of a generation-long process of the corrosion of our institutions. institutions that used to support the aspirations of ordinary people that no longer really work. people feel more alone. this is a big subject will stop -- subject. baghdad.for me in >> what year was that? 2006. >> the structure of the book, -- how didan price
you select him. accident.cross him i -- by accident. about toming a piece tom parriello. he introduced me to the first biodiesel truckstop. 30 seconds on the phone with the proprietor, dean price, was i not to convince me to go down there and interview him. went down there repeatedly. i stayed at his house. his home is south of the state line. he struck me as a completely
person. type entrepreneurial. connected to the land. but, also,in farming a visionary. he had ideas knocking around in his head. he allowed me to intrude upon him. this is a big enough story -- a man was a chain of truck stops that has failed in a region that is failing. tobacco and textile is:. there is not much left. gone.acco and textile is there is not much left. that is what he has done. he is a johnny appleseed of biofuels. big enough me as a
story that he could go into a book. he just turned 50. i know how that feels. he still lives in stokes dale, north carolina. 220..s.- he has had unbelievable setbacks. bankruptcy. it seemed like his biodiesel project is going to fail, but he nevercoming back in this quitting way. he is trying to get school use waste restaurant oil that he collects from fast food joints and barbecue restaurants to make biodiesel
for school buses will stop -- buses. it is a win-win-win, he likes to say. >> how did you find tammy thomas? a black woman in youngstown, ohio. her life coincides the collapse of youngstown oh stop it was a big steelmaking city. in five years, the entire steel-making industry left youngstown and took 50,000 jobs from a small community. she grew up the daughter of a heroin addict. moreared for her mother than her mother was able to care for her. she told me a story of trying to stay awake while her mother
would smoke heroin in bed. -- smoke cigarettes in bed. cigarettesake the and put them out. grandmother cleaned houses of rich white people in youngstown -- the steele gordon -- the steel barons. she wanted to prove people wrong who doubted her. said,andmother cried and you have broken my heart. tammy said it would not be the end of her education. she raised three kids by herself will stop she held down one of the last good blue-collar jobs in youngstown, working at agm auto parts factory. a gm auto parts factory all
stop -- factory. they took all of their american jobs to mexico. life.as part of tammy's >> how old is she? >> she is 47. they are within a 10 year age >ohort . unwinding" coincides with that generation. i wanted people from that age group. she is trying to empower her fellow residents who hung around there while the city is in a guest file best -- death spiral.
getting grocery stores around the city. basic things of life. i was looking for someone like her. i want to find a woman from the rust belt. i wanted a woman as the main character of the book. i wanted a woman from the rust belt. was one oflization the biggest occurrences of this generation. people who knew ohio in the industrial midwest came upon this name, tammy comments, and she was not so quick to take me up as dean price was. i got to know her and she would drive me around eastside. she would say, that was my elementary school. >> jeff.
>> jeff was a source of mine on insider trading in wall street. biography --f his i felt that i wanted him in my book. he was a career washington insider will stop you cannot write about what has happened in america over the past generation without taking washington into account all stop he heard a young center named joe biden give a speech -- a dazzling speech -- and he attached his ambitions to joe biden. he thought he would ride that horse to the white house. he was involved in joe biden's 1988 campaign that ended badly with certain scandals. he continued to work for biden. he was disillusioned. biden was not a nurturing boss.
it turned into a transactional washington-style relationship. "what is in it from a." -- what is in it for me. money with a of prominent lobbying firm in washington during the boom of lobbying over the last 15 years. he lost a lot of money in the financial crisis. that is a watershed moment for all the characters in the book. the senator who replaced joe , made it hisufman mission to impose reform on wall , to reinstate something like glass-steagall.
--e of that came too fast pass. he decided that he had had enough of washington. he burned every bridge that he had to the city but -- by telling his story to me. now he lives in savannah, georgia. characters. 10 side give about five or six pages to them. john walton. --in powell will stop jay-z colin powell. jay-z. the structure of the book was tough for me to come up with. it was crucial that i get it right.
i'm telling the story of america over a generation in a panoramic way. what wasto show happening at the top of society, society, thats of created the toxic atmosphere. .> let me interrupt i have video that i want to show you. from this moment, not the specific moment, but the idea in your book. money, i pay ach donation. they are on permanent loan. 10-feet long. , we had a thing was local corporation they came to
washington. down with the two dragons. i thought that this would be a highlight of my career. they were in the kind of bag that you carry sneakers and. they were much younger than this will stop they had taken the dragon and put him in a cheesecloth bag. they tied the bag shut. it was dark and they thought it was asleep. they arrived and the guy said, these are yours. i am carrying a komodo dragon. they are very strong. >> that is 1994. before he became the speaker. what is the relevance?
>> that reminds me of newt gingrich when he w eight or nine years old and he was fascinated by animals and dinosaurs. ook a bus from his hometown to harrisburg, pennsylvania when he was 10 to see a safari double feature. he wondered why there was no zoo in harrisburg will stop he went ,o the park department and said i think that there should be a zoo. that made the front page of the local paper. you can see his boyish enthusiasm in that clip. other sides to newt gingrich that are darker will stop -- darker. there are these 10 celebrity portraits, and each based on , inr own work and language
, thease of newt gingrich man who would seem nine years old at the age of 50, seemed 50 years old at the age of nine. he said whatever came to mind. he was volatile. he was hugely ambitious and did not conceal it will stop he was a rock thrower. he came to congress in 1978 to tear it down. he wanted to rebuild the republican party from the rubble. great cost. at a he used c-span to great affect. it came to congress the year gingrich came to congress. he performed in front of the cameras and created his own base will stop he used the cameras to
do damage to tip o'neill and the democrats. he became speaker. he became speaker of the institution that was so polarized by tactics that it consumed him like robespierre. a signatureh is representative of the world of politics. -- >> you talk about this incident in your book. >> i do not know if you can have it two ways. you are pulling the levers or you are asleep at the switch. recover, i'm not sure that apologies are important. not the garden variety board member.
the chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors implies leadership. $15 million the year is guaranteed. mr. ruben, he assumed responsibility and said it was the horrible thing. prince, when mr. he resigned, that was the honorable thing to do all stop by point is, leadership and responsibility matters. -- >>grew that will stop i agree with that. committee was a formal apparatus. -- because-- in 2007 of all the problems -- i did feel it 07 that i should not get a bonus. the reason is not the reason that i allude to. democrat.s a
why did you put that in your book? >> reuven comes from the world of finance, as well as government. he is a successful figure in both worlds who did not understand that wall street was his career. a corrupt andg rotten institution in the last .ear he was there the interests of wall street and the country, which he thought could be harmonized, especially when he was in the treasury pulling in were opposite directions. they are opposed to each other will stop he did not see that. in that clip, what you see is a man who cannot grapple with the extent that the world that made no longer a productive
society thatrt of added value. it'd taken value away from america. him that isride in disguised as humility. he is self-effacing. beneath that is a real pride. he would not say that he was responsible. even alan greenspan said he was responsible. >> we will go back to that clip. this is after he was in government. what job question mark >> he was the chairman of the executive committee at citigroup will stop -- citigroup. he is claiming that that is an insignificant position. voice, his judgment, was so
that he was sandy willing to pay an enormous sum to have ruben on hand. paying a lot of attention while citigroup was making a billion dollars on collateralized debt obligations. to me, that is as damning as saying that he was the man with his hand on the lever will stop -- lever. go back to where ruben worked before he was in government. >> he was at goldman sachs throughout the 60s. during his years at goldman a, youhe rose from being know, new hire, to being a co-
chairman. he presided over huge growth. goldman's role in derivatives, trading, fixed incomes, and other areas that huge growth areas but, had bomb sticking inside of them -- bombs taking inside of them -- king inside of them. that and silicon valley where the two engines of wealth in the country. they did not create rod wealth. -- broad wealth. ruben, wall street and
washington should work together. saying,o many americans what is the difference between the two parties. >> and other man you write about -- another man you write about is sam walton. and he had a dream of being a store owner will stop and owner of chain stores. he build walmarts into the worlds biggest retail -- world's biggest retail provider. he represents a particular kind of business.
become as america has manufacturing has declined. walmart push prices down to the point where manufacturers could not meet its demands. walmart turns to china for its products and american manufacturers outsourced their work will stop walmarts is an economy in which wages and prices are low. it is a consumer economy. it is a cheap economy. it is the economy of small towns around the country. dean price and try to make it as an entrepreneur and was in direct competition with walmart. he found that he could not compete. the big box stores were waste to main street in the old town of the carillon that p mont -- carolina piedmont where he grew up.
30% ofwaltons are worth the american people. six waltons. >> they had the good luck of being his heirs. he built the company. on kelly's death in 1992, walmarts was seen as a great american success story. started out in arkansas man iname the wealthiest america. >> hillary clinton was on his board. >> she was. bentonville go to to pay homage to sam walton. he was a king, but, a cheap king . he had a five dollar haircuts.
he was the story of home-spun success until he died. then, walmart shifted. with out its folksy hero, people began to see that walmart was killing off the character of putting drugnd store and shoe store owners out of business. they were the pillars of the community. .ity councilman when they lost their business, the town lost something essential. walmarts, without sam walton, looked more like a sinister turn in the american economy where we have fewer decent factory jobs in more greeters. -- and more store greeters.
whose wholeamily world is dominated by walmart. they buy everything at walmart. the father is trying to support a family of four as a produce an hour.t 8.50 walmart is the company that owns them. they cannot get out even though they resent it. is a dark side. let's had to pick the 10? oprah winfrey, colin powell, bob jay-z,raymond carver, elizabeth warren. >> i wanted a representative look at american life. arts -- food it -- food, finance, arts.
people who began in humble , not unlike the main characters, who reinvent themselves as something new and find a new language and a new empire thatd an they cannot stop building. they have to keep growing, as a person, as a brand. in.cadence sets the language becomes a parody of itself will stop the no longer produce something good. to produce.e newt gingrich keeps writing books. cover of everyry issue of her magazines. they dominate our imaginations
in a way and replace the institutions that have faltered. i chose them for that reason. i wanted to show that you can still do good work without getting caught up in the mania of celebrity. raymond carver with a short story writer -- was a short story writer. these brilliant and truthful stories about america. .e died in 1988 yet it's more choice and difficult life. i'll collect. wrote about it quite a bit. he got sober and was productive in the last years of his life. stories, hist is
fairness of the language is haunting. it seems very ordinary. there's something strange strange about it. what he evokes is -- in this. that he was writing -- he is projecting a loneliness and isolation of his characters. they are not connected to anything. there are no institutions. politics does not exist. form countries do not exist. apropos ofness is the way americans live today. most of the characters live alone. but this is a small item that i read -- >> this is a small item , why was the chapter
about andrew breitbart missing? >> i ran out of gas. i was racing to make my deadline . i was sick. it was hard to finish this book. i found this book difficult to complete. i could not get breitbart done. i knew he had to be in there. if i'm writing about the undoing of our institutions. , the media is essential. andrew breitbart is a perfect story about how the media lost its hold on people. you have the charlatan charmer who knew how to use the internet to get attention. he had a polarizing approach. get attention and
spook the old media. he got inside their head. his story of coming out of nowhere in l.a. and becoming a major figure in the new media seems like it had to be in the book. ageied of a heart attack at 43. you say he was adopted? >> they were both jewish. irish.estry is he was adopted when he was a few weeks old. i tell you the story and intercut it with the rise and fall of the golden age of media. walter cronkite was in one in every five households.
theward and bernstein are of the watergate scandal. as he comes of age, cable news rises up. shouting heads on cable news. twitter,net, blogging, all of this transforms the landscape. --is herbert lee positioned perfectly positioned. he says, i am here. >> he was a liberal turned conservative. he worked for a conservative turned liberal. arehe loudest voices polarizing voices. he could have gone either way. he could have been a raving lefty.
what mattered was, "look at me. i'l" he blew a scandal out of proportion. he got the media to pay attention. he said, your refusal to pay attention to me proves your bias. the media would get spooked and cover him. >> how many books have you written? and one play. >> how many copies of gate" sold? do not know about my sales. they are so discouraging that they prevent me from writing in a book.
this book is selling well. that is unusual. >> we were talking about jeff earlier, who worked for joe himn, here is a clip of talking about impeachment issues. >> he had gone to the clinton white house before impeachment began. he became a lawyer and lobbyist. >> if you are going to impeach a president, there has to be a consensus among lawyers and , astitutional scholars bipartisan consensus, that there is a strong case for his impeachment. it has been clear that there is no such consensus will stop there is not back consensus among constitutional scholars will stop 400 constitutional scholars have written the
judiciary committee and said that even if the president made false statements under oath, that does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. >> how much time did you spend with him? a long correspondence. he was working on his story for his own book. i spent many hours hearing the story of his life. clinton for all the right reasons. bill clinton cared about ordinary americans. he stuck his neck out on behalf of clinton will stop >> in the end, what did he think of joe biden? -- clinton. >> in the end, what did he think of joe biden question m?
>> he was deeply disillusioned and disappointed will stop there -- disappointed. where all ofments joe biden had to do pick up the phone and say, jeff is a nice guy. it was as if he had not joined thatharmed inner circle biden was going to lift a finger for him. it showed him that washington is a wholly transactional relationship. , ii didn't read his book don't know, but, the language that joe biden uses off-camera is strong. a he can be rough on his
ids. even humiliating. i do not know if that is the way that he is. i have not heard anything. somethingsts that -- that is interesting about joe biden is that he hates raising money and doing favors for people who have helped them raise money. pastry gameplay the to the extent that a lot of his colleagues are happy to do. he will go back to willing -- wilmington every night. jeff was punished for helping joe biden raise money for his reelection. he was both incorruptible and
ungrateful. a strange combination. >> you cite an incident that our cameras caught. this is not very long. -- ould you quickly >> i have a much higher iq than you, i suspect. i went to law school. i had a academic scholarship. i decided that i did not want to be in law school. i decided that i want to stay it ended up in the top half of my thes will stop i was outstanding student in the political science department. i've three degrees from undergraduate school will stop 165 credits will stop i would be undergraduate school. one 65 credits. i would be delighted to sit down .
>> that was the end of the biden campaign. reporters were discovering accusations of plagiarism in his campaign speeches and mr. presentations about his grades. .e was full of bluster it was the first time that an entire campaign event was filmed. biden wasutes, joe brilliant. when onelast-minute, person said did you not inflate your grades? biden lost it. it made him look like a bully and a blowhard. there is this makes him biden of talent and inability to control that side of him.
>> i will read this from your that sub more money captains raised, the more access to biden their captain received. how much of this is new to the "the unwinding" years? >> yes the courage to tell, in detail, what really goes on to treat politicians and the people who raise money for them. it is a detail picture of a
washington which, on the surface, seems polarized. but, really, they are joined by money. money shapes legislation. it is true for democrats and republicans. jeff has honored himself by talking about the way it really works. there is always been money in politics. read about lbj and how it corrupted him. 1970s and in the late has gotten bigger -- that is the. of the book -- that is the thatrame of the book -- is a senator has to spend 50% of his free time raising money.
an astonishing week in, week out, job. book, also have in this if you work your but off for him for a few years, he is ignored you. >> that was his experience. that was a straight of others. it was not everyone's experience. there were people who bled biden bleue. many of them are in the white house. jeff did not get into that inner circle. a lot of people do not. he did not create what ted kennedy created, a core of biting guys who remained tight
.ith him kennedy realize that having somewhat in the nonprofit world, and the white house, was good for his ideas. there was not a new generation being created. >> where did you grow up? >> i grew up in silicon valley. back then, it was just the santa clara valley. >> to what kind of a family? >> academic. my mom is still alive. she is a fiction writer. she writes short stories. my father died at 12 will stop he was a law professor. i grew up in a bookish and political household. was blowingversity up in the late 1960s.
i was aware of a benefits and issues from a young age. like how many children in the family? >> i have a sister who is a successful novelist will stop -- novelist. a freelances journalist. she is writing a book about iran. about the origins and reform of is at ay in iran, which resurgence with the election of a new president will stop >> where did you go to school? >> i went to public school and alto.ll also -- palo there are a lot of things in the book that happened in 1978. -- yale. yell
>> how many years have you worked on this book? >> i did not really begin untiling on tell 2010 -- 2010. of return visits to , many visits to the scene of the housing nightmare from a few years ago. visits to silicon valley. that took two years. writing and i wrote it very quickly. i took nine months.
me.ust about killed >> how do you go to your information? inspirationh your nformation.tio >> i had to spend a lot time hanging out with them. driving around. driving in tammy's pontiac as she took me around youngstown. going out to dinner together. i stayed at dean's house. there weren't so many formal as, it was so much just talking and letting the tape recorder roll. i was filling out a picture of their life. and over a.c
of time -- and over a time. >> when you are out there researching, who pays for that? >> i paid for most of that. "the new yorker" by text -- project. a couple of these were "the new yorker goes quote stories -- yorker" stories. >> did you spend more money than it is worth? >> what is this all going to add up to? am i going to get what i need? i've never telling my wife, i am not getting her story. it is not going to work.
i went back and cap talking to tammy. i look at my transcripts, once i inished the reporting, and realized, i have a lot. then, it becomes the process of shaping it into a narrative. the real challenge was telling multiple stories of three or four main characters. how do i organize them? i began with dean price. him andreak away from introduce jeff and newt gingrich. how long can i stay away from dean price for the readers forget about him? there are all these structural problems. , but, aun to do challenge be to the limits.
there was no template for this. novelsere a trilogy of published 80 years ago called "usa." painted a kaleidoscopic portrait of america by weeding -- leaving all these pictures together. when thehat to say unwinding began -- no one can say when the unwinding began. >> what are the differences in your life that you regret? what did you like in your early years that is now gone?
short and isue is like an overture that introduces the characters and images of the book without telling you too up in aguess -- i grew different california and a different america. it was less fair and less inclusive if you are a black american. you are disenfranchised. if you are gay, you were nonexistent. deal that if you work hard and educate your children, there would be a place for you in society. public schools were good and everyone i knew went to one. the people who got sent to private
school had screwed up in public school and were being corrected in private schools. there was wealth and poverty, that the extremes were not great . silicon valley had not created a super class of entrepreneurs. homelessness was unheard of. it was more egalitarian. there was more security. there is a sense that, even if you are a nobody, you are doing something valuable. and to bet disposable discarded if we've not heard of you and and you do not have a lot of money. the america we live in now is a stratified place. if you are bored in the wrong place, it is hard to move up. as a fluid ourselves society. we are less mobile than europe.
we are more stratified. our mobility has justified freewheeling capitalism. now we have freewheeling capitalism where people are stuck in place. i regret the passing of a lot of those things. listu start in 1978 and different years using headlines. what are the major happenings that have changed things in the last 30-40 years. eventsey are not single , whichindustrialization is laid waste to lots of towns across country. global competition, technological change, , and, theg willingness of companies to do it. age of lived in the same
globalization without losing its manufacturing base and undermining its standard of living of the middle class. they made policy decisions to hold on. we allowed it to happen in an open way where some people got very wealthy, especially through financial services. it undermines trust in government. .> you supported the iraq war are you still glad that you did? >> that is impossible. that was a disaster for us. things look grim. a rack is returning to civil war , partly because of the spillover from syria. gaine want to point to a
beyond the removal of saddam .ussein, is almost impossible >> all the characters that you write about, which one had the biggest impact? tammy both face greater obstacles than i did. have -- far from quitting back andept coming found ways to remake their lives when things were turning dark. shot andiancé was killed and she lost her pension before retirement. adversity.conomic
committed suicide after being a failed fire-and- brimstone reacher. they remain invested in the american dream. has the american dream remain invested in them? is there a place in america for people like that? >> do you use the word exceptional? >> once. to come to a more modest appraisal of our self -- ourselves and our world role. is to create a better society here. we extended all this wealth and power abroad in iraq and
afghanistan while hollowing out at home. our middle class, which is the basis of our democracy, is struggling. demons, wherere tammy lives, they say, there is no more middle class. that is not the america i want to live in. >> our guest has been george packer. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> for a dvd copy of this program, call to give us your comments about a.orgrogram, visit join
-- >> president obama released a statement today on the verdict trial against george zimmerman. he was pronounced not guilt in -- guilty. a said, "the death was tragedy for america. this has elicited strong passions and in the wake of the verdict, i know the passions may be running even higher. we are a nation of laws and the jury has spoken. i ask every american to respect the call. >> coming up next, british prime cameron.and -- david